In fact, one of the reasons why Red Hat’s Stevens downplays the significance of the 2.6 kernel is because so many of its key features have already been implemented in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, released last October.
Perhaps another reason is because vendors like Red Hat have to work hard to make sure that the new features work well with their certified applications. Linux 2.6’s new device numbering scheme, for example, will have a “huge impact” on all the layers outside the kernel, namely applications and device drivers, according to Stevens.
“I’m anxious to be working on 2.6 because it’s a cleaner design, don’t get me wrong,” Stevens said. “But as far as new opportunities that it’s opening up, I’m not seeing them.”
The constant refinement and relentless scaling up into more powerful systems may give Linux something that it needs even more than technical features: the confidence of IT managers. “Frankly, I think that’s what Linux really lacks,” Lewis said. “It’s nothing technical. It’s legitimacy.”
But if Torvalds gets his wish, Linux 2.6 will also achieve another longstanding goal: It will make the kernel boring.
“Most people shouldn’t care about kernels,” Torvalds said. They should “take them for granted and find them mind-numbingly boring.”
Torvalds believes that the most interesting work ahead for Linux will be outside the kernel in areas such as graphical user interfaces, office tools, and games.
Historically each kernel release has been a major step in Linux’s race to catch up with Unix, but with the 2.6 release, one has the sense that the gap has closed so much that some of the excitement has disappeared.